Sport England has chosen Northumberland as one of 12 places across the country for a pilot project that aims to encourage more people to use their local swimming pool.
And, it has awarded Active Northumberland £230,000 to help address the drop off in adult swimming and increase participation in the sport.
A number of local leisure centres will see a share of the funding, with a portion going towards improvements to the customer experience for swimmers, additional classes, swimming support and new marketing campaigns to increase awareness of the county’s top quality facilities.
An important development has been the appointment of Mark Seymour as the new head of swimming for Active Northumberland.
Mark will work with communities and customers to deliver an improved adult and family swimming offer which addresses some of the barriers which stop people using their local pool.
To support its successful funding bid, Active Northumberland carried out surveys and focus groups to obtain feedback around local swimming experiences.
The results showed that while 75 per cent of residents were aware of the benefits of swimming and wanted to swim more, a much smaller proportion actually ventured into their local pool.
Mark said: “The team at Active Northumberland will be working hard to make swimming more accessible and appealing and encourage more people to take the plunge and feel the benefits of swimming.”
To encourage local people to take a fresh look at their local pool, and to encourage particular groups into the pool, local leisure centres will soon be providing free come-and-try-it weekends.
There will be changes introduced in and around the poolside and changing areas to improve the customer experience. For example, new equipment, such as poolside towel hooks and small storage areas for items like spectacles.
Northumberland county councillor Cath Homer, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure, said: “This funding will enable us to test new ways of delivering swimming which are based on a better understanding of customer needs and expectations. We are looking forward to seeing the project develop.”
Participation rates for swimming have declined over the last few years and the Swim Local Pilots are one of the ways that Sport England is able test what solutions work best to rectify the decline.
Lisa O’Keefe, of Sport England, said: “We hope people in Northumberland will take advantage of the new swimming opportunities in the area.”